With The Return of La Argentina, Trajal Harrell’s work ventures into a new realm of performativity. Drawing upon memory and invention, the performance invites the audience into a fictional archiving of butoh co-founder Kazuo Ohno’s signature work, Admiring La Argentina, as directed by other founder of butoh,Tatsumi Hijikata. Here, Harrell fictitiously remembers, stores, accounts for, forgets, registers, memorializes, ritualizes, and gives home to Ohno’s work- and essentially a new work which seeks to envisage Admiring La Argentina by abstracting with a similar verve to that Ohno and Hijikata gave to La Argentina, the stage name of the famous Spanish dancer, Antonia Merce. Perhaps one could humorously summarize it as: Harrell is voguing Ohno voguing La Argentina and/or Harrell is voguing Hijikata voguing Antonia Merce.
It is all at once a departure for Harrell – bringing voguing theory and the archive together with butoh’s life among ghosts. As much for those with no prior knowledge of Ohno’s original work, the viewer’s presence becomes essential as witness and admirer as they too archive into their memories perhaps a new signature work on the imagination and our accountability for what we keep; what we choose to remember and forget; and what we are powerfully left to invent in the here and now.